I’ve observed several teachers in both the middle and high schools here in Sitka, and by far the most effective strategy for opening a lesson I found was to have an opening bellringer that students completed as they entered the room. Having some task prepared for students that can be completed in a short amount of time, independently, is an effective means of starting a lesson. The best bellringer I’ve observed was in one of the 6th-grade social studies classrooms at Blatchley Middle School, where the teacher had students write a short response to a question she posted on the smart board at the beginning of class.
For classroom management during the lesson, teachers I’ve observed employed a variety of strategies for keeping students on task. The best strategy I’ve seen in the classroom was the strategy of proximity; that by moving physically closer to the misbehaving students, those students will stop misbehaving due to the closeness of the authority figure. My mentor teacher employs this strategy quite often and organized the layout of his classroom around the idea of proximity.
At the end of the lesson, having an exit ticket or closing activity helps students stay on task till the very end of the period, allowing for learning throughout the entire lesson. One teacher I observed had students answer a question about the learning for the day, and ask a question of the teacher on a sticky note at the end of the period. This not only gave students a closure to the lesson, but also gave them the opportunity to ask the teacher a question about the lesson as well, constituting an informal assessment worked into a classroom management strategy.
As for transitions, the teachers I have observed have typically handled transitions by having the entire class participate in some kind of short activity. My mentor teacher transitions between sections of his lesson by giving students a mid-class break. During this break, students can use the restroom, grab a drink of water, or use their phones quietly in the classroom. These breaks typically last around three minutes.
In the middle school, transitions are typically managed by having all students trade out materials. For example, students may need rulers for the first part of the lesson but may need computers for the next part of the assignment. Having all students put away their rulers and then grab their laptops all at once can help provide structure to a transition that may otherwise be messy.
Sometimes transitions aren’t so clear. This was the case in one of my recent American Government classes, where students had two assignments that they were working on at their own pace. For transitioning between the two assignments, my mentor and I worked with students individually as they finished the first assignment, quietly moving them on to the next part of the lesson. This reduced distractions, and offered students the opportunity to work on their own and help their peers, as students could help their neighbors move onto the next assignment as they finished the first.
Out of all these strategies, I think I would like to use bellringers and exit tickets in my future classroom. I like the structure they provide to the classroom, and I enjoy that both offer the opportunity for informal assessment throughout the day.